Monthly Archives: September 2009

Manaia Farm Girls

A few of Ali's cows
A few of Ali’s cows

Auckland to Taranaki

Our Auckland rendezvous was successful and after a good catch up on all the latest gossip, Miranda and I caught a few winks before our early departure. I tried my hardest to figure out how the heck to get to Manaia from Auckland by bus, but it seems that the rural bus service is only once a week! So, we took the bus to New Plymouth and Ali was kind enough to come pick us up from there.

The bus ride from Auckland to New Plymouth is a curvy one!  The first bit was the usual small towns and pasture, but then we got into a beautiful native forest area that took us up over a mountain and down onto the west coast. It was a grey and rainy day, but it added to the rugged beauty of the coastline. Our bus driver was a character. He shared a proverb with us about the Taranaki region.:

“If you can see the mountain then it is going to rain, and if you cannot see the mountain then it is raining”

We couldn’t see the mountain.

A Day on the Farm

Putting on our blue coveralls and gum boots, we set out for the farm with Ali – Miranda on the front of the four wheeler, and me and the dogs on the back.

A ride on the four wheeler

A ride on the four wheeler

Cows cows everywhere!  (I like cows, so this was a very exciting moment!)

Cow! ... and coveralls

Cow! ... and coveralls

It’s calving season, and just as we pulled up we spotted a new born! Still black and icky, we watched him take his first wobbly steps towards his mama. We’ve since named this little guy Boots, and he’s doing very well.

Baby Boots! He's all black except for his little white legs.

Baby Boots! He's all black except for his little white legs.

Boots' first steps!

Boots' first steps!

After seeing this little guy we were primed and ready for more calf action. Off we go then – to the calf shed!

Fake feeding - these little guys were ready for a drink, and mis took my finger for a teat.

Fake feeding - these little guys were ready for a drink, and mis took my finger for a teat.

The calveteria

The calfeteria

Now it’s time to get to work! Milking shed ho!

First the cows are rounded up from the field and given a little snack in this shed. Then you have to do a little dance to get them out of the shed and into the milking shed.

First the cows are rounded up from the field and given a little snack in this shed. Then you have to do a little dance to get them out of the shed and into the milking shed.

Round and round the cows go! Once they get to the end of the circle, the milking cups automatically come off and then it's my turn to spray their teats to keep them moisturized.

Round and round the cows go! Once they get to the end of the circle, the milking cups automatically come off and then it's my turn to spray their teats to keep them moisturized.

Mnt Taranaki

Mnt Taranaki or Mnt Egmont is a stunning volcano at the centre of the province. From Ali’s farm the land is flat as far as you can see in any direction, except for Mnt Taranaki…

Mnt Taranaki

Mnt Taranaki

We’ve been around the mountain on a day trip out to New Plymouth, and up the mountain to the look out point. We’re hoping to come back in the summer time and do the hike up to the summit once the snow has melted.

Mnt T summit

Mnt T summit

Although Mnt Taranaki hasn’t erupted in 400 years, it is only dormant and not extinct. While we were in New Plymouth we visited a museum that had great diagrams of Mnt Taranaki’s explosions over time, and the resulting creation of the Taranaki region.

Mir, Ali, and Me at the view point on Mnt Taranaki

Mir, Ali, and Me at the view point on Mnt Taranaki

Fun on the Farm

From left to right - Keith, Me, and Gary

From left to right - Keith, Me, and Gary

Our little guest house - luxery!

Our little guest house - luxery!

My favourite Red Tractor

My favourite Red Tractor

Me with Boots - he's a few days old here

Me with Boots - he's a few days old here

Miranda and Boots

Miranda and Boots

A silly moment

A silly moment

Who's silly now!

Who's silly now!

There we go - all smiles!

There we go - all smiles!

Meet Munchin, the family pig! She's adorable and very talkative

Meet Munchin, the family pig! She's adorable and very talkative

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I <3 Melbourne

It's Spring time! My favourite flowers are blooming - Magnolias

It's Spring time! My favourite flowers are blooming - Magnolias

It must be something in the air! Melbourne is a great city, and I felt it from the moment I got here. Maybe I’ve just been missing the “big city” atmosphere?

The Nunnery - best hostel in the city

Nuns+Neon = awesome hostel

I’ve been mostly wandering the streets aimlessly! Managed to find a unique little community garden tucked away on a side street in Fitzroy.

Looks like a kitchen herb garden

Looks like a kitchen herb garden

Simple - a few pallets nailed together, a sheet of weed barrier, some dirt and voila! Portable community garden.

Simple - a few pallets nailed together, a sheet of weed barrier, some dirt and voila! Portable community garden.

The tram system here is brilliant… probably because the novelty hasn’t worn off for me yet!

Melbournians love their trams too

Melbournians love their trams too

I’ll keep wandering here for a few more days, and then back to New Zealand with Miranda! I can’t believe how fast three months has flown by, but at the same time it seems like Vancouver is a whole lifetime away. There’s a field of cows waiting for me in Taranaki, and I’m sure a lot more adventures! Can’t wait.

Oh! I also got the internship I was hoping for at Rainbow Valley Farm on the North Island. That’s for the month of December!

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The Great Ocean Road

Very important.

Very important.

Adelaide

I left the hot sun of Mission Beach for the much cooler climate of Adelaide sometime last week. It was a bit of a shock getting off the plane and piling on layers and layers of clothes for the first time in about two months. I have to admit the fresh breeze and misting rain felt really good.

Adelaide is a nice place – had a small town feel, and the city is nothing like Sydney or Melbourne in scale. Sort of like Victoria versus Vancouver. I didn’t have much time in Adelaide because I was booked for a Groovy Grape Tour of the Great Ocean Road from Adelaide to Melbourne. When Miranda was visiting Melbourne in July she said the Great Ocean Road was  a “must do!” However, while I was in Adelaide I did manage to find a little farmer’s market with excellent hot chocolate, and had some nice walks along the river.

Chilies and coco... yummmy

Chilies and cocoa (or maybe coffee)... yummmy

Grampians National Park

The tour group was small, but very diverse. We had people from: Ireland, England, Germany (only one!!), Iraq, South Korea, China, Wales, Mexico, Australia, Canada, USA, and Japan. We drove (and slept) a lot on the first day because we had to get a ways out of Adelaide before reaching the Grampians National Park. First stop was Mackenzie falls – very pretty! There were rocks in the pool below the waterfall that you could use to get to the other side, which was pretty cool.

Me with a little bit of Mackenize Falls in the background

Me with a little bit of Mackenize Falls in the background

We stayed in a cute little mountain town that had lots of kangaroos! There are two types of ‘roos in the area – Western Greys and Eastern Greys. Named just to confuse you because the Western Greys are brown not at all grey.

Pop Quiz! Are Mama and Joey Eastern Greys or Western Greys?

Pop Quiz! Are Mama and Joey Eastern Greys or Western Greys?

————

Another Geek Moment brought to you by Embalism:

About 430 million years ago (MYA) the Grampians area was a seabed that was lifted up by tectonic processes. As it had been a sea bed, it was sedimentary rock – lots of layers piled up on top of each other. Personally, I only find geology really interesting when you can clearly see the results of these large scale process and time scales… otherwise it’s somehow hard to find context for it all. Anyways, the Grampians are super cool because you can actually SEE where the seabed was lifted because in large areas there is no forest – just big slabs of mountain laying at an angle, and clearly layered. I found this super exciting and took lots of pictures; very few of which actually do the sight justice.

Can you see the angle the rocks are at... ?

Can you see the angle the rocks are at... ?

On a smaller scale, we also found some fossils! They’re the burrow holes of little crabs… no trilobites, but still cool.

A crab dug those slightly discoloured lumpy vertical bumps in the sand over 430MYA

A crab dug those slightly discoloured lumpy vertical bumps in the sand over 430MYA

Thank-you, and we hope you enjoyed this Geek Moment.

——-

The Great Ocean Road

Best seen and not read.

The Great Ocean Road begins!

The Great Ocean Road begins!

The Bay of Islands - lots of huge waves today!

The Bay of Islands - lots of huge waves today!

London Bridge - The bridge used to be connected by two arches, but sometime in the last decade the left arch crumbled into the sea! Eventually it will happen to the other side too, and the stack in the middle will remain (like the 12 Apostles)

London Bridge - The bridge used to be connected by two arches, but sometime in the last decade the left arch crumbled into the sea! Eventually it will happen to the other side too, and the stack in the middle will remain (like the 12 Apostles)

Next stop - Loch Ard Gorge, named after the ship that sunk here

Next stop - Loch Ard Gorge, named after the ship that sunk here

The famous 12 Apostles. You can try REALLY hard to see all 12 from here, but it's impossible. Some are hidden, and some don't exist anymore. Eventually the waves and erosion get too much for these stacks to stand.

The famous 12 Apostles. You can try REALLY hard to see all 12 from here, but it's impossible. Some are hidden, and some don't exist anymore. Eventually the waves and erosion get too much for these stacks to stand.

Bells Beach! Home of Rip Curl. The waves were tiny today, but you can still see some surfers out on the point.

Bells Beach! Home of Rip Curl and Quicksilver. The waves were tiny today, but you can still see some surfers out on the point.

Sweet dude! :)

I wish we'd had time to stop for a surf!

Oh! Koalas awake, low in a tree, and just waiting to greet us!! Mama and baby were just chillin'.

Oh! Koalas awake, low in a tree, and just waiting to greet us!! Mama and baby were just chillin'.

The wind picked up a bit, and the litte guy snuggled back into Mama's pouch. SO CUTE!!

The wind picked up a bit, and the litte guy snuggled back into Mama's pouch. SO CUTE!!

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Mission Beach – A Tropical Paradise

Mission Beach... can you blame me for going back agian, and again, and again?
Mission Beach… can you blame me for going back agian, and again, and again? Photo credit: Carins.com

Third Times a Charm!

The first time I stopped in Mission Beach was on my way to Cairns to help out with the permaculture group. The second time I stayed in Mission Beach was on my way back down the coast to Orpheus Island. Third time’s a charm! This time I actually got to stay more then a day, and I loved every minute of it.

Looking back on it, it’s hard to say what I actually did while I was there. Apparently I didn’t even take any pictures! Wierd!! I was there – honest!

The hostel, the Treehouse, had great lounging areas and I know I spent a lot of time reading because I got through three or four books.

Treehouse pool. Photo credit: olga_fd on Flickr

The Treehouse lounge. Photo credit: olga_fd on Flickr

The Treehouse lounge. Photo credit: olga_fd on Flickr

Fishing or Sharking?

I was lucky enough to make friends with Geoff from the Treehouse,  the local crocodile dundee. He let me in on all the local secrets, and took me fishing!

We went fishing on the reef (that Great Barrier thing) one afternoon, and I was instructed that bananas were strictly forbidden on board – no snacks for me! When I think about fishing, I think: rod, reel, hook, line… Here, all you fish with is a hook and line, and really tough hands or a high pain threshold for when the line slices through your flesh as you pull up a very strong shark. If you’ve caught a fish you might be lucky enough to avoid the flesh slicing. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch sharks! We were able to get them off the lines, and return them safely to the water. Geoff had a bit more luck, and took home 20-odd fish.

Glorious Gardens

Geoff also took me over to his mate Mic’s place. Mic has THE most beautiful garden I think I’ve ever seen (sorry Grandma!). There were tonnes of different fruit trees, a huge veggie patch, his son’s collection of medicinal plants, lots of orchids and other beautiful tropical flowers.

Jade Flower

Jade Flower

On one of our many walks around the garden, Mic picked me all the ingredients to make an Asian curry from scratch – turmeric root, ginger, chilies, curry leaves, thai basil, coriander, and a bunch of other stuff that I cannot remember the name of! He also treated me to a bunch of Red-Daka bananas – tiny pink ones! So cute, and so delicious! I also got a bag of the biggest grapefruits I’ve ever seen! They were twice as big as a soft ball, and made the best grapefruit juice.

Fresh curry ingredients from the garden

Fresh curry ingredients from the garden

Mic’s place was also cool because he had a composting toilet and a rainforest system for treating his grey water – I’m such a sucker for ‘green building’ techniques. The property was bordered on all four side by a creek that split to go around the property and then joined together at the bottom again. The water was super clear and clean – at the top and bottom of the property.  We had an interesting conversation about water privatization in the area. When Mic first bought the property he had to renew a water use license annually with the local government, but he didn’t have to pay anything. They just needed to keep a record of who was taking how much water and where. Then, a few years ago Mic got a bill from Sun Water saying that they’d taken over (privatized) the local water distribution system, and he owed them $75 if he wanted to continue using the water. Needless to say, he said “No thanks” and turned off his grid connection to water. Living in the tropics, it is easy enough to capture enough rainwater in the wet season to cover his needs. I asked whether farmers were paying for rain water, and Mic said that they did as far as he knew. How long will it be before he’ll have to pay for the rain water he collects for residential use?

On a less depressing front, I also got up close and personal with the largest spider I’ve ever seen. The female is the large one you can see in the picture, and the males are tiny-itsy-bitsy ones that live on the outer ring of the web. They stay on special strings of the web that the female cannot sense movement on… otherwise they’d get eaten! She was probably a hand-width across, and the males we found we maybe half the size of my pinky fingernail.

Freaky large spide... about a hand width across

Freaky large spide... about a hand width across

Crocodile Cruise

On one of my last nights in Mission Beach I did Geoff’s Crocodile Cruise. I was really excited to get to see some real salt water crocs, which are the ones that can get up to 7m long!! We (there was a group of 12 people) started out on the boat around 4pm. We wound through the mangroves and estuarine river system all the way to the mouth of the river. Nothing. “Fear not! We still have the spotlight to use when the sun goes down. It’s easy to spot their red eyes in the dark,” said Geoff.

We watched the sun set, and then headed back up the river. Each of us took a turn scanning the shorelines with the spot light at the front of the boat. Nothing. Not one crocodile! Not only did we not see any crocs, we also didn’t catch any crabs in the pot, and we didn’t see any sea eagles. Unheard of! Geoff was a little perturbed by the lack of action on the boat that night, and jokingly said that only a banana on board could bring such bad luck. That was when one of the other guests sheepishly piped up and admitted that he had brought a banana, AND that he was a fisherman and knew that bananas were bad luck!! We all blamed him, and crocodiles remain on my list of things to see at some point in my life. I believe Geoff’s superstition now.

No Bannanas on Board

If you’re as curious as I was about where the “Bananas are bad luck” superstition comes from, I’ve collected a few tidbits of info here.

” There are many stories why bananas have been thought of as bad luck on boats.  This is only one of the nautical superstitions that I know of  and is particularly prevalent amongst watermen.  Many stories have banana oil rubbing off on ones hands and “spooking” the fish; therefore  the fish don’t bite.  There is always the story of a crew member slipping on the banana peel left on the deck.  Some say that bananas  give you the runs so you are always in the marine head and can’t catch fish because you are busy “draining the pipes”.  Many other stories are told about bad luck and bananas, however the one that I find most plausible is a historical one.

Back in the days of the transatlantic crossings by wooden sailing ships many hazards would befall the captains, crew and passengers. Disease, pirates, shipwrecks, storms, etc., claimed the lives of a good percentage of the captains, crew and passengers attempting the dangerous voyage.  Needless to say, a transatlantic crossing in the 17th and 18th centuries was a very risky endeavor.  Often the vessels would stop along the way in tropical islands to gather provisions such as food and water.  There the passengers and crew would often purchase wooden crates of bananas from the locals and bring them aboard the ship.  These crates would have all manner of critters in them such as bugs, spiders, vermin and snakes.


These critters would make their way into the bilges of the ships, multiply, and then find their way into the captain’s quarters.  The captains circulated the rumor that bananas were bad luck in an attempt to keep the critters off the ship and out of their cabin.  The crew andpassengers were more than eager to follow suit because of the inherent risk of the crossing.  So, if the captain announced prior to the voyage that bananas were bad luck and not allowed aboard the vessel, everyone complied.  You must remember that these were the days of burning witches and the like, so superstitions were taken very seriously.” – Capt Jim

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” The origin of this superstition is uncertain, but many believe that it began in olden times, when bananas were transported by rickety, overcrowded, top-heavy boats plying the tropics (now known as cruise ships). These boats would frequently sink, leaving behind a residue of floating yellow commas, thus leading witnesses to deduce that hauling bananas was unlucky. A more scientific explanation is that since bananas give off ethylene gas when they ripen, it causes other perishable foodstuffs to spoil more quickly. This expended-gas theory could be why it’s also considered unlucky to have a politician on board. Yet another theory suggests that crates of bananas would also contain unwanted pests, such as spiders, snakes, flies, mice and Beanie Babies.” –  Boating World Magazine

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Magnetic Island

One of Magnetic's many beautiful beaches

One of Magnetic's many beautiful beaches - watch out for stingers and salt water crocs!

After wandering around the James Cook University campus I wanted to go back to uni, specifically this one! Such a beautiful campus. However, only moments after leaving campus the urge disappeared – I was only momentarily smitten.

I hopped on a passenger ferry over to Magnetic Island; timed perfectly for the ‘school’ run, which was a flash back to commuting on the Bowen ferry to school.

Apparently the island was named “Magnetic Island” because it messed with Capt Cook’s navigational instruments. Since then the island’s magnetic properties have been disproved… Cook must have had something else going on.

Magnetic Island was really nice…. and very hot. I spent most of the time lying in the sun and at the beach. At one point, I did manage to pull myself off the beach towel to go find a pay phone and make some calls home. In true Aussie fashion I got distracted, and ended up doing a hike over the hill to two other beaches. I forgot my shoes, but didn’t seem to notice until I finally got back to the pay-phone two hours later and noticed how hot the pavement was on my toes!

Burnt trees and shrub along my walkabout over the hill. Every few years, land is control burnt like this to prevent the build up of fuel for forest fires. There is a lot of controversy over whether it is a good tactic to use or not.

Burnt trees and shrub along my walkabout over the hill. Every few years, land is control burnt like this to prevent the build up of fuel for forest fires. There is a lot of controversy over whether it is a good tactic to use or not.

The hostel I stayed at, Bungalow Bay Hostel, also has a little wildlife sanctuary attached to it. I wanted to see a koala up close and personal, so I took the tour and ended up seeing a lot more then just koalas – crocs, echidnas, cockatoos, lizards, skinks, koalas, wallabies… and a python.

I kissed a cockatoo! Actually I put a sunflower seed between my lips, and he gently removed it and then ate it

I kissed a cockatoo! Actually I put a sunflower seed between my lips, and he gently removed it and then ate it

Koala cuddle... he got a bit friendly. They're pretty cute, but they stink.

Koala cuddle... he got a bit friendly. They're pretty cute, but they stink.

Awwww... birdy love

Awwww... birdy love

Exhausted after the cuddle session

Exhausted after the cuddle session

I was TRICKED into holding the python. I have a healthy respect for snakes of any size, especially ones longer then me that have the ability to strangle and eat me alive. I was told that if I didn’t hold the snake, then I would have to hold the spider. Immediately, I stood up with outstretched arms – “Give me the snake.”  It didn’t last long, but from what I can remember it was cool and heavy and it’s head was moving toward mine far too quickly. Luckily, I survived.
The spider I was threatened with was a plastic tarantula. Gah!

"OMG, I'm holding a giant python!!"

"OMG, I'm holding a giant python!!"

"It's coming towards me.... I'm DONE NOW!!"

"It's coming towards me.... I'm DONE NOW!!"

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